Changing Places

Wish a co-worker or the boss could walk in your shoes for a day? Some companies are actually making that happen. The official term is “perspective swaps,” and Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggests it’s a great way to shake businesses out of their habitual ways of doing things.

In optical, for example, the O.D. or owner might spend a day working with customers, the receptionist might work in the finishing lab, or the optician could handle the front desk.

Tip: “Instructing members of different ‘teams’ to temporarily swap places can fuel a new level of empathy and understanding, and…productive organizational change.”

New Understanding

The point? “Perspective swaps involve intentionally shifting your point of view to gain a new understanding of a situation,” reports HBR.

Here’s how it can work, according to HBR. “Perspective swaps can be applied vertically—up and down your organizational chart—or laterally across different functional groups. Vertical perspective swaps happen between leaders and their employees. Perspective swaps can help detox leaders from blind spots and distorted views of what’s happening.”

Below are two examples of what companies have done and the differences the experiences have made.

Vertical Perspective Swap

1One employee is selected each month to be the CEO for a day.

At the Finnish IT services company Vincit, one employee is selected each month to be the CEO for a day. According to HBR, they can make “one decision that will improve the workplace. From instituting new coworker lunches aimed at building connections among employees to implementing new employee mental health resources during the pandemic, the program has led to swift and meaningful changes.”

Lateral Perspective Swap

These switches are applied across different areas, like marketing and human resources. One example? Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz noticed that customer support and sales engineering at one of his companies were constantly battling.

He had the heads of two teams switch places. “It worked,” reports HBR. “After just one week, the leaders were able to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s challenges and resolve the issues that had caused the spats.”

HBR’s advice? “Instructing members of different teams to temporarily swap places can fuel a new level of empathy and understanding—and, if all goes well, productive organizational change.”

As bestselling author Dan Brown puts it, “Sometimes a change of perspective is all it takes to see the light.”

Have you ever had staff members switch places? If so, did they develop a better understanding of the other team? Tell us about it and share in the conversation on Facebook here.

Erinn Morgan

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